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Studio Vs Live: "Semente", "The Bucket Kicker", and "Hive"

Ben Gray
Contributing Writer

In my last column on Wayne Shorter’s "Masqualero", the first two versions of the tune that I looked at were both performed by bands led by Miles Davis, featuring Shorter on sax. Some key differences, though, led to huge changes in the feel of the tune from its first appearance on the studio album Sorcerer to the live album recorded three years later, It’s About that Time. First, time passed and everyone’s approach to the music had evolved in that time; second, the composition of the band changed; and third, the song as it was performed live was hugely stretched out, and the energy of the room was certainly different in the live vs. the studio setting. For this column, I’ll look at three tunes composed much more recently than the others I’ve looked at for these columns and, similar to "Masqualero", look at how the tunes change over the period of a few years in a live vs. studio setting and with some personnel changes.

Joe Martin, "Semente"
"Semente" is the opener on bassist Joe Martin’s 2009 album Not By Chance, featuring Chris Potter on sax, Brad Mehldau on piano, and Marcus Gilmore on drums. The tune opens with Martin’s bassline pulling the listener in before Mehldau’s piano comes in like a mist with Gilmore’s cymbals. At about 0:35, Potter’s sax plays the tune’s melody, and around 0:50, Gilmore’s drums start to push the tune forward with a little more propulsion. The very catchy head of the tune continues until about 2:25 or so, with some embellishments from both Potter and Mehldau, before moving into a piano solo. Mehldau takes a relaxed solo here; I particularly like the line he plays around 2:50 or 2:55 and the section starting around 3:45 until the end of the solo around 4:15. Martin and Gilmore lock in nicely behind this piano solo. Potter steps in for a sax solo at about 4:15, picking up on the fluttering end to Mehldau’s piano solo. The line at around 4:45 is a nice, catchy melodic section, and this solo continues along very nicely, taking a few breaks throughout, with Gilmore’s drums stepping in during those breaks. At about 6:10, Potter’s solo breaks down and there is a brief ambient section before moving back into the head. They play through the tune’s head again at the close of the tune, with nice group interaction throughout, ending with an ambient section, pretty piano from Mehldau and a fluttering sax line from Potter over Martin’s bassline from the opening of the tune and Gilmore’s churning drums. This is a great tune, one of the extremely catchy melodies on Not by Chance, with great individual playing all around and a good group dynamic despite this not being a regularly assembled quartet.

As good as the album version of "Semente" is, the live versions of the tune allow more room for stretching out and some high energy playing. There are a number of great versions of "Semente" on the Small’s Audio Archive (go sign up if you haven’t already - this is a treasure trove) in Joe Martin-led groups, but the one I’ll highlight here is from February 28, 2008, while the tune was still evolving. Martin was joined by Seamus Blake on sax, Kevin Hays on piano, and Jeff Ballard on drums for this version (a band that only played together this one time). As on the album version, this version starts with Martin’s bassline, but the feel quickly becomes different from the studio version on Not by Chance. At about 0:10, Ballard starts to play some really cool pitched drums behind the bassline, and then Hays plays some muted piano strings (reminiscent of how Hays jumps into "Poppy’s Song" from Joe Martin’s Passage album) over Ballard’s cymbals. Blake’s sax joins at about 0:45, playing the song’s melody. The quartet moves through the head at a similar tempo to the album version, but Hays gives this version some thicker piano chords than Mehldau on the album version and Ballard’s drums give this a notably different feel. As on the album version, a piano solo follows the tune’s head. Hays’ solo starts at about 2:45, and I absolutely love how he comes in here, playing a two-note motif with his left hand that comes in and out throughout the rest of this version of "Semente." He plays an inspired solo here, moving all over the keyboard with his right hand with some subtle accompaniment from his left hand. Blake’s sax solo starts around 4:45. Just before 6:00, Blake plays some fast runs over Hays’ floating piano chords that sound very good to my ears. Just before 7:00, they move into a drum feature for Jeff Ballard, and this is fantastic stuff here… Martin adds a three-note bassline, and Hays plays some muted piano followed by floating chords while Ballard just kills it. Check out those pitch-shifted drums again around 7:30 or so... this dissolves at about 8:20 or so and Martin’s bassline returns around 8:45, bringing it back something lovely here. The quartet moves back into the "Semente" head that they play through to the end, similar to the song’s opening. The ambience at the end (around 11:00 until the end) is particularly nice. Great, great stuff, a very different take on Martin’s tune. All four of the members of the band play great, and Ballard’s drum feature is worth the price of admission on its own.

Gilad Hekselman, "The Bucket Kicker"
Gilad Hekselman’s 2011 Hearts Wide Open album, featuring Joe Martin on bass and Marcus Gilmore on drums, included a tune that Hekselman has brought to a number of live dates, "The Bucket Kicker". The album version of "The Bucket Kicker" starts with Hekselman playing the tune’s melody over Gilmore’s snare drum and Joe Martin’s bass. Martin and Gilmore are really locked in with each other here in the opening of the tune. At about 0:30, Hekselman takes a solo. It’s a fluid, melodic solo that can be expected from Gilad Hekselman’s guitar. Gilmore’s drums here are nice, propulsive without ever falling into much of a regular pattern, and he and Martin stay locked together throughout the tune. At about 3:30, Hekselman returns to the "Bucket Kicker" melody to close his solo, moving into some back and forth between Joe Martin’s bass and Marcus Gilmore’s drums. Martin and Gilmore trade phrases until about 4:45 when the trio returns to the tune’s head. Cool little half-time phrase around 4:50 or so, and otherwise, they play the head through to the end of the tune. It’s a catchy melody and interesting rhythmically, with a sort of stop-start time shifting feeling as emphasized by Gilmore’s snare drum (particularly in the opening). A fluid solo from Hekselman and great rhythmic work from Martin and Gilmore.

The Bucket Kicker by Gilad Hekselman on Grooveshark

Gilad Hekselman also brought "The Bucket Kicker" to a live date at Small’s led by Anat Cohen on February 18, 2009. The band included Anat Cohen on clarinet, Hekselman on guitar, Joe Martin on bass, and Obed Calvaire on drums. In this live version, Hekselman and Cohen state the melody at the opening in unison. There’s a similar time-shifting feel from Calvaire’s drums here as the feel on the album version of the tune with Marcus Gilmore on drums. After playing through the head once, they play through the head again more loosely, led by Anat Cohen with some cool interplay between her clarinet and Gilad Hekselman’s guitar. This is followed by a guitar solo from Hekselman starting around 1:10. The guitar solo includes a lengthy quote from "In The Mood" starting around 1:25 or so. After that section, Hekselman’s fluid (I keep using that word; it seems like the most natural way to describe his guitar playing) solo continues… he hits on a nice chord around 2:15 or so that Anat Cohen really liked, judging from her audible reaction in the background. Some cool descending lines just before 3:00 that someone, I believe Hekselman himself, is also audibly happy with. Around 3:40 or so, he faintly hints at the "Bucket Kicker" melody and then around 3:55 plays some lines that are somewhat reminiscent of the earlier quotes from "In The Mood." Meanwhile, Obed Calvaire’s drums are providing unbelievably good support, driving the solo along with the solid support from Joe Martin’s bass. At about 5:20, Hekselman returns to the "Bucket Kicker" melody and brings the solo to a close, handing off the reins to Cohen’s clarinet. At the start of her solo, Calvaire’s drums have settled back down after building hugely during Hekselman’s solo. Cohen’s clarinet solo is full of great melodic inventions; I particularly liked the line she plays just before 7:00 over some nice, subtle comping from Hekselman’s guitar. She briefly touches on the "Bucket Kicker" melody around 7:30 before pushing on. Around 8:00, I believe she’s quoting from something, but the tune escapes me… [Editor's Note: At 8:49, she's definitely playing The Lick.] Nice comping from Hekselman behind this solo around 8:30, and a nice buildup of tension, releasing around 9:15 or so. At 9:40, Cohen touches back on the "Bucket Kicker" melody and finishes her solo, leading to a bass solo from Joe Martin. I really like the almost music box-like sounds that Hekselman adds behind the start of this solo around 10:00 or so and continuing throughout Martin’s solo. Martin plays an inventive bass solo over Calvaire’s shuffling brush snares. At about 11:20, there’s an especially nice section from Martin as Calvaire moves to his ride cymbal. Around 12:15, Martin’s bass seems to respond to some descending lines that Hekselman played just before. After Martin’s bass solo, there is a section with some drum breaks to highlight Calvaire, starting around 12:30. The break just before 13:00 is cool, a lot of negative space. In between these drum breaks, the interplay between Hekselman and Cohen is great, too… The way they come back in at 13:30 after that drumbreak is fantastic, that subtle pause before the cymbal crash really does it for me. Just before 14:30, Calvaire clearly plays the "Bucket Kicker" melody on his drums, leading the quartet back to the tune’s head, which they play through to the finish of this version. Tremendous playing from all four of the band members here, stretching this tune way out as compared to the album version. Hekselman’s guitar solo is great, and Obed Calvaire pushes this tune hard here, especially behind Hekselman’s guitar and then at the end when he gets those open breaks. Yikes, this one is recommended.

John Scofield, "Hive"
John Scofield’s excellent 2001 album Works For Me, with Kenny Garrett on sax, Brad Mehldau on piano, Christian McBride on bass, and Billy Higgins on drums (what a lineup!) contains all original tunes written by Scofield, including "Hive." The tune starts with a descending line from Scofield, Garrett, and Mehldau over Higgins’ snare drum. After this initial descending line, they move into the tune’s head, a unison line from Scofield and Higgins over some subtle chords from Mehldau, mixed pretty low in the left channel. McBride’s bass is subtle in the head as well. At about 1:00, Scofield opens his guitar solo with a moan, followed by a great, fluid (again!) solo over McBride’s walking bass, Mehldau’s comping, and Higgins’ drums. It’s a brief guitar solo, leading to a sax solo from Garrett starting around 1:45. Garrett starts with a single repeated note, leading to a very lyrical solo. The line he plays around 2:10 sounds like it could be a tune itself, but I believe this is just Garrett improvising. Another brief solo, leading to a piano solo from Mehldau. He builds his solo, starting around 2:30, from the ending statements from Garrett’s sax. As always, fantastic piano work from Mehldau. Following the piano solo, there are some open drum breaks for Higgins, similar in structure to the end of "The Bucket Kicker," above. At about 4:10, the group returns to the head, the unison guitar/sax line. They re-play the descending line from the tune’s opening at about 4:35 and that’s the end. Brief solos from Scofield, Garrett, and Mehldau make for a succinct tune. Each of the solos has some very lyrical moments in them, however.

Hive by John Scofield on Grooveshark

Scofield’s New Morning - The Paris Concert DVD from 2010 also includes "Hive". Here, Scofield is joined by Michael Eckroth on piano, Ben Street on bass, and Bill Stewart on drums. This version skips the descending line that starts and finishes the album version of "Hive", jumping instead right into the tune’s head. Here, Scofield and Eckroth play the head in unison (rather than the guitar/sax unison line on the album version). Ben Street’s walking bassline is noticeably higher in the mix than McBride’s was on the album version, and this version is at a faster tempo. The combination of faster tempo and more low-end makes it feel like they’re giving the tune some more muscle in this version, to my ears. Scofield takes a guitar solo starting around 0:40, supported with a very strong foundation from the rest of the band. This is great… I love the part around 1:30 where there’s a tension build that Scofield responds to with a great note after the band comes back together. He sprinkles these little moaning notes through the solo (again just after 1:50 and just before 2:30), they’re sort of a Scofield trademark. He brings his solo to a close just after 3:00, leading to a piano solo from Michael Eckroth. He gives a strong solo here, again with great backing from Street and Stewart. This is some solid piano trio playing, Eckroth sounds very influenced by Herbie Hancock’s acoustic piano playing. Just after 4:30, there are some openings for Stewart on the drums, a similar arrangement to the album version. Just after 5:40, they return to the tune’s head. They do play that descending line from the album version at the end here, giving it a really chaotic feel. This version feels like it has more muscle behind it, and the composition feels knottier here than on the album, where they make the tune feel much more relaxed. A great Scofield solo here, opening up the tune more than on Works for Me and good interplay among the band members.

In my past columns, I have looked at how tunes have evolved over the span of decades. These three tunes show that by changing the personnel and the setting (live vs. studio), big changes can happen in a relatively short time, just a few years. I’ll plan to look at some more contemporary tunes in future columns, as well as digging back through the decades. Keep listening.

Ben Gray is a listener with a lot of ideas about this music around in his head.